For many people, snacking is necessary to maintain energy levels throughout the day and prevent excessive hunger and dramatic drops in blood sugar. There are many benefits to snacking, and if done thoughtfully, snacking between meals can be part of a healthy lifestyle plan. Potential benefits of snacking include the opportunity to consume more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as satisfy hunger between meals so that overeating doesn’t occur when meal time rolls around.
A lot of people may find snacking scary or detrimental to a healthy lifestyle because it can lead to what may feel like non-stop eating. When thinking about snacks, convenience foods like cookies, chips, and candy may come to mind, as these are easily available and easy to eat on the go. The problem with these types of snacks is that they tend to be very high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium. They also may be high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals, which is not ideal. Frequently snacking on these items can contribute to undesirable weight gain, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Portion size of snacks may also be of concern; sometimes, what was intended to be a snack can turn into what could actually be considered a meal. In general, 1-2 snacks per day, at about 150-200 calories each, is appropriate for most people.
When choosing snacks, it is important to choose foods that will fuel the body, contribute to health, and leave you satisfied until the next meal. Ideally, a snack consists of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In combination, these three nutrients. known as macronutrients, make a powerful and healthy snack that will keep you full and satisfied between meals. Sometimes it’s not possible to create an ideal snack, but keep in mind that pairing two different types of foods together is a good guideline. For example, pineapple provides mostly carbohydrates, but pineapple and cottage cheese together provides carbohydrate, protein, and a bit of fat. Unsure about what foods contain what macronutrients? Check out the lists below for ideas.
- Peanut butter (or any other nut butter, e.g. almond, cashew, etc.)
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
- Ground flax seed
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Cream cheese
- Fresh fruit
- Dried fruit (ideally with no sugar added)
- Bread (ideally 100% whole grain)
- Wheat bagel
- Wheat tortilla
- Whole grain cereal (think Cheerios or shredded wheat)
- Whole grain waffle
- Whole grain crackers (think Triscuits or Beanitos)
- Tortilla chips
- Lean turkey, ham, or roast beef
- Chicken breast
- Lean beef or turkey jerky
- Greek Yogurt
- Protein Powder
Try combining an item from each list to create a great snack that will nourish you and keep you full. Below is a list of snack ideas that combine all three components and will provide you with some healthy fuel between meals.
- ½ nut butter & jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Apple or celery with peanut butter
- 1 boiled egg with ¼ of an avocado
- Trail mix made with dried cranberries, almonds, and cashews
- Raw vegetables with hummus
- Cheese stick with fresh fruit
- Tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole
Snacking can be a wonderful and necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. By planning ahead, being mindful of portions, and remembering the recommendation to pair two foods together, you can be sure that you’re providing optimal fuel to your body throughout the day. For more easy and healthy snack ideas, click here.
This post was written by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.